PM blocks Data Commissioner’s investigation into Joseph Muscat’s golden handshake

An investigation by the Data Protection Commissioner into the €120,000 golden handshake given to disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat has been blocked.

The Office of Prime Minister Robert Abela is insisting that it has “no document” to show supporting the extravagant payout given to Muscat when he was forced to resign in disgrace in late 2019 over revelations in the investigation of the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The move has effectively blocked an investigation by the Data Protection Commissioner prompted by The Shift, seeking to pursue the investigation that revealed the exorbitant payment.

Last July, The Shift revealed how, after leaving office, Joseph Muscat was paid €120,000 from state coffers in lieu of a secret terminal benefit scheme reserved for former cabinet members.

The Shift filed a Freedom of Information request asking the Office of the Prime Minister to supply a copy of the letter accompanying the benefit paid to Muscat, including the computation of such a lucrative benefit.

In its investigation, The Shift found that while Muscat was only entitled to a payment of some €60,000, according to publicly available information related to the scheme, he was inexplicably paid double the amount.

Asking for the intervention of the Data Protection Commissioner, The Shift argued that it was not possible that the OPM, responsible for the disbursement of public funds under this scheme, had no track record of the payment of €120,000 of public funds to a former prime minister.

However, in the latest development, the OPM impeded the investigation, insisting with a formal declaration to the Commissioner that it has no such document in its possession.

“Taking into consideration the declaration made by the Public Authority (OPM), more specifically, that it does not hold the requested document, the complaint is being dismissed,” the Commissioner declared while insisting that the law does not give him the power to investigate any further.

While both Prime Minister Robert Abela and Joseph Muscat repeatedly refused to explain how such a lucrative golden handshake was calculated, The Shift found that during Muscat’s premiership, the scheme, first introduced in 2008, was twice changed, in 2018 and 2019, primarily for Muscat’s own benefit.

Prime Minister Robert Abela, who insists there wasn’t a single episode of bad governance on his watch, is adamantly refusing to disclose the information on the former prime minister who put him at the helm of government.

Muscat treated differently

Introduced in 2008 by the former PN administration, the Terminal and Transitional benefit scheme allows prime ministers, ministers and parliamentary secretaries who have left office to get a golden handshake amounting to one month’s salary for every year spent in public office.

The minimum established is six months’ salary, amounting to some €30,000.

Details of the scheme, secretly changed before Muscat resigned, are being protected by a blanket immunity over Cabinet documents.

The Shift has revealed that while €1.4 million have already been disbursed to 38 politicians, some of them still sitting members of parliament and government Ministers, Muscat received three times the average disbursed to former cabinet members.

To make Muscat’s €120,000 payment even more ‘suspicious’, The Shift revealed that his predecessor, Lawrence Gonzi, who spent some four years more than Muscat as prime minister, and a much longer time as Cabinet minister, received a total of €72,000 under the scheme – just over half what Muscat got from taxpayers.

Muscat is currently under intense pressure over consistent claims of sleaze and rampant corruption on his watch.

As part of an ongoing magisterial inquiry over a €2 billion deal signed by Muscat over a 30-year concession on three public hospitals, the police last week “raided” his residence in Burmarrad where they found Muscat prepared with a file to hand over to them. Malta Today reported that his office in Sa Maison was also searched.

                           
                               
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Joseph Tabone Adami
Joseph Tabone Adami
3 months ago

Should one simply say “And that’s that”?

Victor Formosa
Victor Formosa
3 months ago

Why doesn’t MUSCAT come clean about this 120,000 euros?? Has he got anything to hide?? From what I can make out, Muscat has not said anything about this GOLDEN Handshake of 120,000 euros correct me if I’m wrong. Come on Muscat, by now you must have prepared a file to explain how much the GOLDEN Handshake was, as you had a file for the 60,000 euro from (VITALS- STEWARD???)

saviour mamo
saviour mamo
3 months ago

They are just thieves stealing from honest citizens.

adriang
adriang
3 months ago

If no such document exists, can’t ‘we the people’ take JM to court in order to get re-imbursed for the mistake?

Teddy Cilia
Teddy Cilia
3 months ago
Reply to  adriang

If there is no signed document authorizing such payment , then it is an unauthorized payment; i.e. it is illegal!

Iain Morrison
Iain Morrison
3 months ago

Just theft plain and simple.

joe tedesco
joe tedesco
3 months ago

THE PL IS MIRED IN SLEAZE. NEVER, EVER, TRUST THEM.

Edward Saguna
Edward Saguna
3 months ago

Reminds me of Animal Farm, again.

JOHN CASSAR
3 months ago

Muscat ittradixxa lil partit li tah ic-cans li jikkontesta f’ismu. Huwa dejjem hadem ghall-butu w gildu. Ghadu sal-illum jiekol min fuq it-taxxi taghna

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